The Unbearable Lightness of Being a Bubble Team

Danny Gray
11 years ago
I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.
Last week the Leafs had just won their fourth straight game and looked poised to vault up the Eastern Conference standings, and maybe even challenge for home ice. This week they have just lost their third straight game and sit ninth in the East, one point behind the Capitals. For those of you who are frustrated by this recent turn of events here is some unsolicited advice: get used to it.
I don’t know how many times we all need to be reminded that the Leafs as currently constructed were judged by most sensible observers to be a playoff bubble team. The last two weeks are a perfect example what that means. One week they’ll roll off four straight wins looking more dominant in each successive game. The next they’ll have no “jump”, “grit”, or “heart” and lose three straight.
I am not suggesting that we should ignore those losses; indeed they illuminated some glaring deficiencies on this team, most notably capable goaltending and size and toughness in the Top Six Forwards. What we should all keep in mind is that this team is going to go through stretches where they look nothing like a playoff team. This is a young team, these things will happen.
What should concern fans is if the losing streaks exceed three games, or if we fall more than five points out of a playoff spot.  
As often as possible I advocate for keeping an even keel and remembering our initial evaluations of the team. While some players are playing much better than we thought they would: Kessel, Lupul, Phaneuf. Others are playing worse: Kulemin, Schenn, Reimer. Having said that, the team as a whole is still in a position we would have been thrilled about at the start of the season.
There are going to be more weeks where the Leafs look unbeatable, and there are going to be others where they look like they’ll never win again. It’s all part of being a young, bubble team.
I don’t want to end this on a negative not but we all need to face the harsh reality that if they Leafs do indeed clinch a playoff spot, it will likely be during the last week of the season.
I’ll have an ulcer long before then. 

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